In Other News...
Remember the national anthem before the film? It turns out this happens in more places than just the cinema. At 6 o clock every day the country stops and the national anthem is played over the radio and loudspeakers. We experienced this in the park and at the markets in Chiang Mai. On top of that, there is also what can only be described as the daily President brainwash broadcast on TV over every single channel!
FINALLY! We got to watch the new Star Wars film! And not only that, we got to watch it in 3D IMAX for only £8. Although the film was well worth the wait, it was not the highlight of the evening. Before the film starts, the whole audience has to stand up whilst the Thai national anthem is played and a video praising the King is shown on the screen! Mental right? Imagine if we had to stand up to sing God Save the Queen and salute Lizzy every time we went to watch a film! Does anyone actually know the words to our national anthem!?
We took the boat ride along the river to get to the famous Wat Arun temple and as part of the journey you get a guide pointing out some of the landmarks. She liked to make sure you never missed a point by repeating everything she said twice. "The next stop is Pier 9, Pier 9, go to the backside of the boat, the backside of the boat, to exit for Wat Arun, Wat Arun".
We also visited one of the largest reclining Buddhas in the world at Wat Pho (opposite Wat Arun) which is 46m metres long and made of gold! We're really not sure of the significance of a Buddha chilling out but, supposedly it's kind of a big deal around here...
สวัสดี - swasdi
They are all Maryam's height! Yay!
State of WCs:
Great in cities but not so in the Islands - 6/10
30*c + and HOT HOT HOT!
Eggs... and many tasty Thai dishes including pork leg, so GOOD
No. Of bites:
Maryam - 11 V a few - Andy
Shopping and shopping malls are everywhere
If you are in a public place at 6pm, please pause as the national anthum will be playing
They don't have many, they've killed them all off... except some cool monitor lizards
Cheap cheap cheap, can have a street meal for as little as £1
Massage, koh (Island), fried rice
7 hours ahead of GMT
We actually came to Thailand three times. We started our Southeast Asia adventure here visiting Bangkok and Chiang Mai. We then came back and spent an hour in Bangkok airport waiting for a connection before returning for the final time from Cambodia where we spent another couple of days in Bangkok before heading South.
Oh take us back to the night market of Chiang Mai! First of all it was massive and had much more variety than the typical souvenir selling markets you find but that is not why we hold such fond memories. We had our first massage at the markets (foot and leg) and it was amazing! The female masseuse flatly refused to massage Andy due to his size, so the poor male masseuse who got Andy had to work much harder - they are used to people Maryam's size but not 6 foot westerners - he's got a lot more leg to be rubbed!
... and the rest of Island Hopping
First stop was Krabi/Railay Beach, we stayed in each for a couple of nights. Railay beach was beautiful with huge cliffs surrounding the beach and town and is a key spot for rock climbing as well as sunning yourself and going snorkelling. There was also an easily accessible cove that we got to explore all by ourselves on an early morning swim.
We headed out on the first day to a tour of 4 islands, one of which was called chicken island! Supposedly, it looks like a chicken but we would say it looks more like a turkey. Our guide was good fun and kept calling Andy 'man-cub' whenever he wanted his attention! Andy really needs a haircut.
We went snorkelling off the boat and got to see some clown fish living in an anemone as well as sea snakes and lots more beautiful fish. Marine life is fast becoming a personal favourite of ours! Well, other than jelly fish! Andy (along with 3 other people) managed to get stung by a stray jellyfish tentacle that was floating near the ladder for the boat. It really hurt and all he is going to say about it is, you know that thing you're meant to do to a jellyfish sting? Yeah, it doesn't work!
First stop heading South was to Koh Tao, an island off the East coast in the Gulf of Thailand renowned for being the cheapest place to learn to scuba dive... and that's exactly what we did - it's been one of the best things we have ever done. Diving in the Gulf of Thailand is like being in a giant fish tank. We swam with schools of fish over the coral, saw stingray... Maryam likes to describe the weightless experience as getting in her space suit and floating in a fish universe.
She has no dreams of being an instructor though as she can't carry anyone to safety during a strong current... and she learnt this the hard/hilarious way. During the open water diving course we had to swim two laps around the boat, if we dove from top deck then only one lap. The dive went well, swimming to the front of the boat easy... and then no progress, as Maryam was swimming the current was exerting an equal force against her resulting in Nothing, she was swimming on the spot, it was like being on a water treadmill! Lucky for our damsel in destress she was rescued by our handsome instructor Glen who in true Baywatch style dove from the top deck.
Lumphini Park is where it is at in Bangkok! We were walking through the park at about 5pm and there were hundreds of runners and locals doing aerobics! The stereo was pumping and the instructor had her microphone on yelling out instructions but there were so many people that most of them wouldn't have been able to see the guides at the front!
As we were walking, Andy stopped Maryam mid sentence and shouted "Bloody hell, have you seen the size of that lizard!" In front of us just casually walking across the path was a monitor lizard that was easily 1.5m long! It turns out they live in the river running through the park and there are loads of them. They're pretty impressive too as not only can they swim, they can climb trees!
We didn't see much else on Koh Tao because we were underwater for the majority of it visiting Champion Pinnacle, White Rock, Green Rock, Sail Rock and Twins. We did make it to the beach at night though to see the fire dancers who perform every night in front of the bars (the ones at Lotus Bar were our favourites). They did some pretty cool tricks such as lighting people's cigarettes and throwing/catching with their feet but the main event was when they performed on a table in the sea.
We survived a good six months with only some minor bouts of illness but Railay Beach got us good and proper, especially Andy. We would have been completely bed bound for 48 hours if it wasn't for the fact we had to catch two ferries over the course of the next two days to Koh Phi Phi (we didn't see anything once there other than the room) and then onto Koh Lanta where we did at least manage a night time walk down the beach!
After the first day recovering we did get out and explore Koh Lanta which we were a big fan of. It is much, much quieter than Koh Phi Phi but still has lots to offer. On the first day we went on a snorkelling trip to Koh Rok and got to see some clown fish living in an anemone (Nemo!). We also met Paul who is the ultimate candidate for a working whilst travelling lifestyle! Do it Paul! And on our last day of Thailand we hiked through the jungle and visited a cave complex.
We dove to a depth of 30m - that's 10 storeys under the water!
Malaysia here we come, before the President manages to brainwash us!
Maryam found herself in shopping heaven in Bangkok. Or was it shopping hell? Everything fitted her! The problem though, it means that there is a lot more stuff for her to look at.
We made another trip to the cinema to see Deadpool. This time it wasn't in IMAX but it was in the swankiest cinema we've ever encountered. We had a leather sofa seat to share, blankets, footrest, and the opportunity to order wine if we'd so desired. We still had to stand for the national anthem of course.
What goes up, must come down. Our last stop in Bangkok was to visit a plane graveyard on the edge of town. Technically not a tourist attraction, a couple of hundred baht will get you past the bad ass female 'security guard' (a loose term meaning squatter) and a free reign to roam the site. You can get inside a couple of the planes including what is left of the cockpits and cargo hold!
We hired a private taxi to take us to Doi Inthanon which is a Buddhist site in the middle of a national park and also the highest point in Thailand. Our driver spoke no English but luckily his wife did, the only problem was, she wasn't in the car! Every time we needed to ask a question or change the plan he had to phone his wife and we would negotiate with her before she would relay what had been agreed to him! We knew who wore the trousers in that relationship.
Whilst there Andy managed to bag himself a photo with a monk. It was pretty easy really since the monk asked Andy if he could have a photo with him! #justsaying. We're not sure if it was Andy's orange top or his general aura that drew the monk to him, but we suspect that it was because he was tall! The situation also quickly escalated and before he knew it, he was posing with 2 monks and a Thai couple…
Ah, green man, it must be safe to cross right? Wrong! The cars just do not stop regardless of the red lights! Whilst it is definitely safer to cross the road on a green man, it certainly isn't safe... But then again, neither is the pavement! When the traffic gets gridlocked the mopeds and motorbikes drive along the pavement instead and they treat it as if you are in their way!
Look right, we love the zoo/animals, OK? Yes, we've been to another one, this time in Chiang Mai and it was mega! Andy got to feed a giraffe and stroke it on the head! #bestzooeva We'd been having an animal selfie challenge with our friends in Australia and it would have been rude not to carry on here. Check out some of our efforts below, we think Maryam's will be hard to beat!
We thought we were blessed with night buses in South America but they have hit a new high in Thailand - massaging chairs! That's right and TVs built in to the chair in front with a range of movies (all in English we may add) to watch. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride... if you can ignore the bumps.
Forget the giraffe this is the best ostrich selfie!